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The deviant artist: Jenny Bhatt on why she launched a web comic series

Jenny Bhatt once shocked the art community with irreverent slogan T-shirts. Now, she’s that rare established artist taking to social media

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Sep 09, 2016 16:24 IST
Manali Shah
Gags from the MokshaShots series
Gags from the MokshaShots series(Photo: Jenny Bhatt)

Jenny Bhatt once shocked the art community with irreverent slogan T-shirts. Now, she’s that rare established artist taking to social media.

“Contemporary art is like a private joke. Only a few get it.” That’s one of the first things Jenny Bhatt (45) says when we meet her at her Opera House residence. The abstract and pop artist, known for her vivid use of colours, also has a reputation for being cheeky and telling it like it is.

Read more: Being Laxman Shreshtha: The untold story of the legendary abstract artist

There are many things that set Bhatt apart from a traditional fine art painter. For one, she launched a web comic and gag cartoon series, on Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr, this July. It is an extension of her multimedia project, MokshaShots (acrylic on canvas paintings, products like diaries and T-shirts and interactive digital media), which used satirical humour to comment on social and cultural practices.

MokshaShots Gags (Photo: Jenny Bhatt)

The web comic features cartoon characters from the series — such as MokshaBuy, the ‘Consumer Goddess’, MokshaBrat, who is politically incorrect, and MokshaBum, the thinker and armchair philosopher. “They are all aspects of the self,” says Bhatt. A new character of MokshaCat, the seeker, has been introduced recently.

Keeping up with the times

Of late, the web has been a great platform for new, lesser-known artists to get noticed. But Bhatt has been exhibiting since the ’90s, and her work has been shown in The Drawing Center, New York, and London Miles Gallery, London, and auctioned by Christie’s.

The move to digital art was for the sake of interactivity. “It’s not possible to exhibit often. I like the reach of the internet. It is also democratic, anybody can be honest. And I reply to each comment I receive. It allows you to build a community around your art,” says Bhatt.

MokshaShots Comics (Photo: Jenny Bhatt)

Bhatt also puts up sketches and video collages of the various stages of creating her artwork. “People interested in your work are also interested in the process. I don’t think the art community is using social media to its full potential. Many artists don’t feel comfortable with technology, while some are sceptical about it,” she adds. But technology comes naturally to Bhatt, who began her career with a digital design studio, and later worked as a graphic designer in an advertising agency.

The LOL factor

What sets Bhatt apart even further is the fact that she’s dabbled in stand-up comedy, a couple of years ago. “It was just another medium,” she says. Eventually, when balancing art and stand-up became a struggle, she chose the former. Her jokes revolved around the art world and we wouldn’t be surprised if it rubbed the art community in the wrong way.

Artist Jenny Bhatt at her Opera House residence (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT)

However, Bhatt has been ruffling feathers within the art circuit since the late 2000s. She recalls, “People were quite snobbish and stuffy back then.” Bhatt would show up at art openings wearing T-shirts that said, ‘Mona Lisa smiled, it didn’t kill her,’ and ‘It’s not PMS, it’s you’. “One set of artists were extremely resentful and said I was doing it for publicity. Others had fun with it. All the while, I kept a straight face. I have always found it hard not to be vocal. Eventually, they accepted me for who I am and I still

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Follow Moksha Shots web comics by Jenny Bhatt on social media.

Facebook: facebook.com/MokshaShots; Tumblr: mokshashots.tumblr.com; Instagram: @mokshashots